Believe me, it gets sole-burning hot in summer. This is why I’m up with the birds for my morning walk. A quarter past six, sees me marching across Hannan’s Street towards Piccadilly. This ladies and gentlemen, is not London, but Kalgoorlie. I’m crossing the lines.
Any Indian can tell you that crossing a railway line is something of an adventure. Usually, this is done without the benefit of an overbridge and with one eye to oncoming trains. If there is a walkway in a station, then it is generally conquered step by step – think Mt. Everest here – and against an avalanche of descending (or ascending) fellow passengers. No doubt, you’ve read about the recent Kumbh Mela stampede?
On most mornings, I’m a lone ranger as I cross the Kalgoorlie railway bridge. Sometimes there’s the occasional other jogger to keep me company. On some days I pass nurses on their way to work at Kalgoorlie hospital. I don’t really miss the masses. The station on my right looks deserted, although I know there are probably people getting on the Prospector this very minute.
Working on the Railroad: Shunting engines near Kalgoorlie
Usually, if I’m lucky, I’ll catch sight of a long tail of a freight train carrying Pacific National containers passing below. On another day, I heard a warning hoot and as I top the incline leading up to the bridge, I see a yellow engine coming round the bend. The driver seems surprised to see someone watching. Is he afraid I’ll jump? He cranes his neck to get a better look as he passes below. I simply wait and walk on. Should I have waved?
A week later, I’m on the road again. Crossing the lines has become my favourite thing to do each morning. The sun on my back is quite warm already, as I pass St. Mary’s school, which smells like a new term.
In the distance, there is a familiar whistle. I stop for a moment on the bridge and the yellow engine comes into view. I’m reminded of Thomas the Tank Engine and wonder if there could be a story about his Australian cousins. This time, the driver’s assistant leans out, looks up, and raises his hand in salute. It’s just one brief moment shared with another human being on this deserted morning. Suddenly, it feels wonderful to be alive. I wave back.
I saw a cattle cruiser – sounds catchy, doesn’t it. Actually, what I saw was a cattle ship in Fremantle harbour. I was on a night cruise down the Swan river, and a cattle ship by night looks very impressive – sort of like looking at Mumbai’s 5-star Hotel Trident with all the lights turned on. I’m not trying to insult the hotel here, just trying to compliment the cattle cruiser (my name sounds much better, although I expect some sailor is cringing at the description).
One of my Aussie lecturers winced visibly when I waxed enthusiastic about this highlight of my cruise. She probably thinks I’m mad, but for a person who’s seen Mumbai’s metro, the cattle cruiser looks like a luxury liner. I don’t know if the cattle are headed for death row, but it sure looks like a comfortable ride.
What I really should be thrilled about is the Captain Cook cruise down the Swan River. We ‘set sail’ from the Barrack Street jetty at around 8pm. Perth by night is not as lighted as Mumbai, probably because no one works in the CBD on a weekend when the footy final is on – or any other weekend, for that matter. Still, the floodlit ferris wheel, the blue-glowing Swan Bells and sundry other tall buildings looked pretty impressive. I even discovered an Indian restaurant by the jetty – Annalakshmi – something to check out later.
The Swan River is probably best seen by day, but there’s a certain charm to puttering down the river at night with loud music blaring on the dance floor. It’s kind of paradoxical that while I was trying my best to do graceful gyrations like my African friend – she of the lip balm fame – other people were sitting down to a quiet dinner with a river view.
After one glass of wine, and a lot of shifting from my left foot to my right, I decided the whole dance thing was over-rated.
“You need to loosen up,” advised my friend. “Swing your hair,” she said, suiting the action to the words.
“I can’t,” said I in some desperation. “I need to cook.”
“The only time I dance is when I’m in the kitchen, with sixties music in my ears and a knife in my hand.”
Which probably begs a tale about my cooking…but that’s another entry.